Category archives: The Courts

Ezra Pounds the Human Rights Tribunals

by Michael Fragoso

August 7, 2008

Via NRO I see that Ezra Levant, a Canadian magazine publisher, has been acquitted by the kangaroo Human Rights Tribunal that had been investigating him.  His account of the acquittal-and further denunciations of his inquisitors is here.  I once heard Levant speak here in Washington and he was just as full of justified indignation then as he seems to be now.  In Canada these tribunals have been used by radical Muslims to silence critics of Islam and by homosexual activists to silence religious speech they find offensive.

On the Islamic side, the experiences of people like Levant are dangerously close to the experiences of those who live in Muslim countries and have to face “blasphemy laws.”  These blasphemy laws are a growing problem in many countries, since they are often used to repress religious minorities and to silence political opponents.  They also are part-and-parcel of a growing problem at the international level, namely the ten-year effort to establish “defamation of religion” as a prohibited action by customary international law.  In other words it would be a blasphemy law as an international norm.  (The Becket Fund has been watching this issue carefully, especially as it would affect established religious liberty.)

On the Christian side, the Canadian tribunals might be a forerunner of what we might see in the United States with expanded hate-crimes laws and same-sex marriage.  As Levant mentions in his piece, one Canadian man of the cloth has already been forbidden to discuss certain tenets of his faith.  In Sweden, Pastor Ake Green was also brought up on charges for denouncing homosexuality (see our brief in the case here).  At least in Green’s case, however, he was tried in standard courts, and acquitted.  As Levant points out, these tribunals are far murkier and less accountable for their actions.  (“The process is the punishment,” I heard him say.)  Their slow importation into the United States poses a serious threat to religious liberty, as we are already learning in places like New Mexico.

So congratulations to Ezra Levant, but we should pay close attention to his story, lest it just be a prologue for similar petty tyranny here in the United States.

The 7th Circuit sends the Italian genius packing …for now

by Pat Fagan

August 7, 2008

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that The Freedom From Religion Foundation had no legal standing to sue the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for incorporating chaplain work into its veteran health care. What does this have to do with Gramshi, the Italian genius of soft communism?

To have the federal government expand its reach into virtually every corner of life (family, school, health, the economy) and simultaneously to push for a radical “wall of separation of church and state” is to ban religion from life. It is the perfect scenario for a slow but Sherman-like “march through the institutions” as Gramsci envisioned.

As Mapping America shows, the practice of religion is integral to superior outcomes in most dimensions of life, and medicine is no exception as reviews of the literature make clear.

The plaintiff in a case against Veterans Affairs for their support of chaplains’ work with ill patients, The Freedom From Religion Foundation, clearly falls among the ranks of those dedicated to a Gramsciite deconstruction of American society, not a building up of her strengths nor even of the care of her sick soldiers.

Sitting on the bench (in more ways than one)

by Bill Saunders

July 25, 2008

A week ago, July 17th marked the 365th day that Chief Judge Robert Conrad has been nominated for the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals and has not had a hearing in the Senate. That is one year, without the basic courtesy of Senate Democrats telling him to his face why they do not want him on court. It is also one year in which the 4th Circuit has languished, short-handed, with over a quarter of its seats vacant. A recent hearing in the Senate, convened by Sen. Alexander of Tennessee, brought a distinguished panel of witnesses to show why this is unfair to Judge Conrad and the American people.

Judge Conrad is eminently qualified to sit on the 4th Circuit. In fact, as recently as 2006 the Senate deemed him qualified to head the Federal Western District Court of the North Carolina, and a year before that appointed him to that court without opposition. As the representative of the North Carolina Bar Association told the Senate panel, Conrad is a superb lawyer who deserves to be put on the court, not left in judicial limbo. (He also noted that North Carolina, the most populous state in the 4th Circuit, has only one judge on the court—a misrepresentation that Judge Conrad’s appointment would help to remedy.)

Perhaps the worst part about what is going on is the dishonesty of it all. Sen. Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has already unfairly smeared Judge Conrad by wantonly mischaracterizing his religious beliefs. Now he has taken refuge behind the so-called “Thurmond Rule” in holding up the nomination of Conrad and others like him. Leahy alleges that Republicans, led by deceased Sen. Strom Thurmond in 1980, purposefully obstructed the nominations of President Carter’s federal judges since it was an election year, so, in the words of Leahy, they might “remain vacant in order to be filled with the nominations of the next president.” The Congressional Research Service debunked that claim. In fact, in September of 1980 the Senate confirmed 12 judicial nominations. The Senate even confirmed Stephen Breyer (now an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court) to the 1st Circuit after Reagan’s election. All in all, of the 14 nominations pending in 1980 12 received hearings, 10 were reported, and 10 were confirmed—71.4%. Compare that to the 35% treatment Bush has received.

Sen. Leahy should be honest about the Thurmond Rule, and follow Sen. Thurmond’s example by holding hearings on 8 more judges—starting with Robert Conrad.

A Limit to Judicial Activism

by Bill Saunders

July 17, 2008

They finally got one right!  After two of the worst, most politically motivated decisions in history, the California Supreme Court finally issued a rational decision. The Court threw out a challenge to this fall’s ballot initiative seeking to enshrine traditional marriage in the California constitution.  The challenge was the latest attempt by social leftists to prevent the people of California from deciding an absolutely fundamental issue - the definition of marriage.  Of course, the traditional definition of one man and one woman was thrown into dispute because the same California Supreme Court held that “limiting” marriage to one man and one woman was discriminatory against homosexuals who wished to marry one another.  They then followed that up by what might be the most undemocratic action of all: refusing to “stay” the legal effect of their decision until the people of California could decide the issue in the fall.

Apparently, the chief justice and others are convening meetings to, as they call, it “preserve impartial courts in California.”  It is hard not to laugh.  Exactly what is “impartial” about outlawing marriage as an “irrational” institution?  Or about refusing to stay that decision until the people can vote?

A new day is dawning in abortion litigation

by Bill Saunders

July 4, 2008

Remember Gonzales v. Carhart? That’s the Supreme Court decision from last year that upheld the Congressional ban on partial birth abortion. Justice Kennedy wrote the opinion, and lawyers tied themselves up in knots trying to interpret it. Most agree it was a narrow victory for the pro-life cause, but it was a victory. That can be seen in last Friday’s decision by the 8th Circuit to allow a South Dakota abortion law to go into effect, a case in which FRC filed a friend of the court brief.

Prior to Gonzales v. Carhart, such laws were routinely struck down before they ever came into binding, legal force. Kennedy specifically noted, however, that this approach (another of the distortions abortion causes to the law) would no longer be followed. If someone wanted to challenge a law as it was applied to them, they could, and the court would decide whether specific provisions of that law, rather than the entire law, violated the Constitution. The 8th Circuit applied that logic to a challenge to South Dakota’s law, and allowed the law to go into effect.

The law merely provides that women seeking an abortion should be given complete information about the risks involved, etc, but Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry wanted to stop it at any cost, as usual, regardless of the fact women deserve to receive such information. However, the 8th Circuit rejected their old “business as ususal” approach to litigation concerning abortion and replaced it with some common sense.

A new day is dawning in abortion litigation.

Under the Banner of Kennedy

by Michael Fragoso

July 3, 2008

On the same day that Justice Kennedy ruled that “the death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child,” Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed a bill into law authorizing the castration of child rapists.  Certain sections of the comentariat-up to and including Fox News-have ridiculed the measure.

Jindal’s law replacing execution with castration, however, is not without precedent.  When William of Normandy conquered Anglo-Saxon England in 1066 he abolished the death penalty at the urging of the Roman Catholic Church-under whose banner he had won the Battle of Hastings.  Nonetheless, a punishment was necessary for capital crimes, so in his Coronation Charter King William said, “I also forbid that anyone shall be slain or hanged for any fault, but let his eyes be put out and let him be castrated…” Justice Kennedy, having followed the inclinations of Bishop Odo, finds himself faced with Bobby Jindal deploying edicts suited to King William.  Plus ca change…

This is further evidence that when Kennedy references any sort of “evolving standards of decency” his referent is likely a fiction, and he is merely citing his own preferences and proclivities.

Does R. Kelly believe he can fly?

by Ken Blackwell

May 12, 2008

Jury selection in the high-profile child pornography trial of rapper R. Kelly begins today in Cook County, Illinois. Mr. Kelly has pleaded not guilty to having videotaped himself having sex with a minor. Cook County prosecutors have doggedly pursued this case in order to protect children, arrest the degradation of women and establish community values of decency.

We can only hope and pray that the old comedic line “don’t believe your lying eyes” does not prevail.

Southwick Confirmed!

by Jared Bridges

October 24, 2007

After what seems like a battle without end, Judge Leslie Southwick has now been confirmed by the U.S. Senate to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a 59-38 vote.

Here is FRC’s press release on Judge Southwick’s nomination:

FRC Praises Confirmation of Judge Southwick

October 24, 2007 - Wednesday

Washington, D.C.- Tony Perkins, President of Family Research Council, made the following comments following Senate confirmation of Judge Leslie Southwick to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit:

We are pleased that Judge Leslie Southwick, a veteran of the Iraq war with 11 years of judicial experience, can finally move forward after struggling for a simple up-or-down vote. However, the unconstitutional use of judicial filibusters continues as other well-qualified judicial nominees are vilified and blocked by Senate leadership and their liberal allies. I urge the Senate to end the backlog of judicial nominations and allow a fair up-or-down vote for each nominee.

I thank President Bush and Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Trent Lott (R-MS), Thad Cochran (R-MS), and Arlen Specter (R-PA) for their hard work to overcome stalling tactics and confirm this highly-qualified nominee to the bench.”

Straw Poll on the Issues

by Jared Bridges

October 23, 2007

The FRC Action Values Voter Straw Poll has been making lots of news, but one of the poll questions that hasn’t yet gained as much attention was question #3, which asked participants to rank the order of importance among a set of issues. Here are the results:

Please indicate which issue is the most important in determining your opinion of the candidate that you will most likely vote for?

Here’s the statistical breakdown:

Abortion 2398 41.52%
Same-sex “Marriage” 1141 19.76%
Tax Cuts 626 10.84%
Permanent tax relief for families 563 9.75%
Federal “hate crimes” legislation 331 5.73%
No vote on this question 181 3.13%
Taxpayer funding for abortions 151 2.61%
Prayer in schools 93 1.61%
Reinstatement of the “Fairness Doctrine” 88 1.52%
Public display of the Ten Commandments 57 0.99%
Enforced obscenity laws 54 0.94%
Embryonic stem cell experiments 48 0.83%
Voluntary, student-led prayer in schools 44 0.76%
Total 5,775 100%

Now that you’ve got the numbers, feel free to crunch away.

Man who sues God gets a response

by Jared Bridges

September 21, 2007

America’s courts keep getting curiouser and curiouser:

LINCOLN, Nebraska (AP) — A legislator who filed a lawsuit against God has gotten something he might not have expected: a response.

State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha said he sued God last week to make a point about frivolous lawsuits.

One of two court filings from “God” came Wednesday under otherworldly circumstances, according to John Friend, clerk of the Douglas County District Court in Omaha.

This one miraculously appeared on the counter. It just all of a sudden was here — poof!” Friend said.

Frankly, I don’t see how The Onion can compete with the “real” news these days…